Army Cpl. Gilberto A. Meza – October 2011 Shipment Honoree
Remember Our Heroes
Cpl. Meza was assigned to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany; died Oct. 6, 2007 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit.
Ventura County Star — An U.S. Army soldier from Oxnard has become the 17th casualty in the four-year-old Iraq war.
Cpl. Gilberto A. Meza, 21, died in Baghdad from wounds he sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit on Saturday, a Department of Defense press release said.
Meza was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany.
Meza was the third Oxnard resident to die in the Iraq war. The last was Spc. Jaime Rodriguez Jr., 19, who died in Saqlawiyah when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
Meza entered Oxnard High School in 2000, and later transferred to Channel Islands High School, Frontier High School and the Oxnard Union High School District’s GED program in 2004, officials said.
Gilberto A. Meza, Army Corporal – Rest in Peace
It was at once an intensely personal ceremony and one filled with ritual befitting someone killed in battle.
Gilberto Meza’s final journey began Tuesday morning as his casket was transported under police escort from the Camino del Sol Funeral Home in Oxnard a mile across town to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. A military honor guard took Meza’s casket into the cinder-block church as family and friends followed.
Meza’s funeral came 10 days after he was killed in Baghdad by an improvised explosive device. The 21-year-old corporal had been in Iraq for only about a month.
Meza, a member of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Squadron, became the fifth Oxnard resident and 17th from Ventura County to die in the Iraq war.
Once inside the church, Meza’s family and friends had a traditional funeral service, one filled with prayers for him and for those he left behind. After the service, Meza’s body was taken for burial to Santa Clara Cemetery on the north end of town.
Cristina Zavala, a longtime friend, told the crowd of several hundred people gathered at the cemetery that Meza often talked about his wishes should he die young.
“He always said we shouldn’t worry about him,” Zavala said. While Meza said he would miss his family, he did not want a lot of tears and sorrow at his funeral.
“He always said he would rather die with honor on the battlefield than die on a street somewhere here,” she said.
Zavala, 21, said Meza was everyone’s soldier, even before he joined the Army some two years ago.
“He was the kind of person who always wanted to make sure you were OK,” said Zavala, who first met Meza when the two were about 10 years old. Over the years, they developed a deep friendship, becoming what Zavala called “soul mates.”
Zavala feared for Meza’s safety when he told her he was going to join the Army. But Zavala and some other friends said they were unable to talk him out of joining.
“It was something he really wanted to do, both for himself and as a way to make his family proud,” Zavala said.
Zavala recalled how eager Meza seemed to go to Iraq when she last saw him at Los Angeles International Airport in late July.
“He felt he had a duty to go over there and a job to do,” she said.
In many ways, Meza seemed to blossom after he joined the Army, she said. The military instilled discipline in him and gave him a better sense of himself as a man. “For him, it was a career,” she said.
Meza’s brother, Rigoberto, said Meza was his hero.
“I looked up to him even though he was my younger brother,” he said.
Uncle Juan Martinez said some people may be born alone and die alone — but not his nephew.
“He was born into a very loving family,” Martinez told the crowd. Even in death, his nephew was surrounded by those who cared deeply about him, Martinez said.
“We honor a son of this great nation, who offered his life for our liberty, our hopes and our dreams,” said Fidel Ramirez, a Santa Clara parish deacon.
Meza was awarded a Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart by President Bush.
Meza’s family placed handfuls of dirt and flowers on top of his coffin before it was lowered into the ground.
“Save me the place in heaven that you said you would,” Zavala said as she looked at the closed silver casket.
The afternoon before his death, CPL Meza badly sprained his ankle while conducting a raid on an insurgent house and we told him he would probably have to stay in the Stryker (vehicle) the next day to let it heal. He looked at me with a face I’ll never forget and simply said, “Sir, I’m a dismount.” The next morning, upon returned to sector on less than two hours of sleep we told Meza to just rest for a while before joining the Platoon. Of course, he was clearing houses and pulling security for the Platoon before I even finished my sentence. CPL Meza loved his work and excelled at it. He was brave and intelligent, and, more than anything else, an Infantryman. He will never be forgotten.
— CPT Andrew Teague
August 4, 2008 at 11:07 a.m.